Waking long before daylight, we found our car concealed beneath the icy shroud of the first winter snowfall. Once outside and puffing impatiently into my hands to enjoy a momentary sensation of warmth, I opened the door shattering the icy crystals forming along the edge. As I breathed, wisps of vapour curled intricately upwards before vanishing into the chilled air. After the engine spluttered into life with a choking cough, we drove down darkened roads. Muffled by a colourless veil, the town was a stark monochrome of sublime silence. Certainly, the port-town, Narvik, was fast asleep; and for all intents and purposes, we were alone in this cold opaque world. We were on our way to Lofoten.
For many years, I gazed at gorgeous photographs depicting tiny red huts swamped by majestic mountains, so it had long been my dream to visit Norway—Lofoten, in particular. Hoping to reach the southernmost point of the peninsula before evening, we would have to chase the sun as it sank into the horizon. That plan – a plan made on a bright Slovak autumn day, did not take into consideration that, when the day came, we would have merely five daylight hours. That’s if blizzards didn’t roll in.
Narvik is the last station on the train from Stockholm and the gateway to Lofoten, making it a convenient place to rent a car. The man in the pizza restaurant the night before told us, his only customers that the snow came late this year. A few days earlier and Narvik would have been an ugly, grey, and industrial port. Still, now it wore an evanescent snowy filter. There are some pretty parts, like the small harbour area, but the rest is bleak. Knowing that the drive down Lofoten was long, and the daylight hours short – we faced a race against time, but we would make it if we didn’t stop too often. We didn’t realise that every few metres would present yet another spectacular view. Norway’s scenery is so breathtakingly beautiful, you simply can’t help but stop and allow it to…well, take your breath away.
With the rising sun casting a deep golden glow across snow-blasted valleys, we admired the ever-changing vista. The road steadfastly wound past lakes; dipped into gullies; and cut dramatically through the rock face, taking us into long roughly-hewn tunnels that plunged us into darkness, before throwing us out on the other side to take in a scene even more incredible than the last. Barely seeing another car in either direction, we continued awestruck for many hours. It’s the journey, not the destination that matters.
By early afternoon, we drove in the deep shadows cast by the mountains. With the sun swiftly dropping to the horizon, we stopped by one last lake. Squatting to capture the reflections through my camera lens, the silence stunned me. My boyfriend heard it first, his hearing more astute than mine. A faint sound from behind. Listening intently, we detected a weak call for help. Investigating, we found an elderly man whose mobility scooter had come off the path; plunging headfirst into a deep snowdrift. He was sitting atop the vehicle shivering, helpless, and alone. Despite being metres from home, the temperature was now far below zero and night was closing in: his life was in peril. The man’s eyes glazed with tears as he thanked us. We’d saved his life, there is no doubt. Here in this wilderness, nature is a femme fatale, beautiful, but deadly.
Finally reaching the south as the day swallowed its last breath, I took my own photograph of tiny red huts swamped by majestic mountains.
I hope people are gazing at it on Instagram and longing to visit Lofoten one day.
Have you ever made the trip of a lifetime? Where was it? Did it meet your expectations? Tell me about it in the comments below!